WORCESTER, Mass. – Brett Smith hit a two-out, three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to help Bucknell overcome a three-run deficit, but Holy Cross scored four runs in the 11th inning, as the Bison had their season come to an end on Saturday with an 11-7 loss in the Patriot League Championship Series at Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field.
Bucknell, the No. 4 seed, entered the day needing to sweep the doubleheader, but the Crusaders, the No. 2 seed, took the opening game to win their first-ever Patriot League title. Competing in the Patriot League Tournament for the eighth time in the last 10 seasons, the Bison finish the year 21-28 overall, eclipsing the 20-win mark for the second straight season and the fourth time in five years.
Bucknell's rally began with a two-out double from pinch hitter Luke Hartman to get into scoring position. Alex Salem came in to pinch run and advanced to third on a single from Chuckie Scales. On a 2-1 count, in what was potentially his final collegiate at bat in a Bison uniform, Smith extended Bucknell's season with a blast to center field.
Holy Cross plated four in the 11th inning on three consecutive bases-loaded walks and a hit batter.
Sam Clark went 3-for-4 with two home runs, three RBIs and two runs scored, Danny Rafferty went 2-for-5 with two runs scored, while Luke Johnson went 2-for-4, as the Bison produced 13 hits in the contest.
Clark wasted no time getting the Bison on the board in the opening inning. The First Team All-Patriot League honoree blasted a ball over the right field fence, scoring Smith and giving his team an early 2-0 advantage.
Holy Cross countered with a two-run homer in the second inning to tie the game and took the lead with one run in the third inning while adding another in the fifth inning.
Bucknell cut into the deficit with a run in the sixth inning, scored by Rafferty on a groundout from JohnPaul Bell.
The Crusaders added insurance in the seventh inning, tacking on three more runs. Bucknell gained back a run in the inning, thanks to Clark's second home run of the afternoon.
Mike Castellani got the start on the hill for Bucknell. The senior pitched 6.1 IP and struck out a career-best nine, but issued fours runs on 10 hits. Nate Grisius (1.1 IP), Jack Grabek (0.1 IP) and Jeff Gottesman (2.1 IP) and Mike Stephens (0.2 IP) pitched the final 4.2 innings. Gottesman was credited with the loss.
Joe Cravero started for Holy Cross, pitching 7.0 innings, allowing three runs on six hits while striking out eight. Justin Finan (2.0 IP) and George Capen (2.0 IP) pitched the final 4.0 innings. Capen was credited with the victory.
Three seniors - Clark, Rafferty and Castellani - landed a spot on the Patriot League All-Tournament Team. Clark hit .533 (8-for-15) in the postseason with three home runs, four RBIs and three runs scored. Rafferty batted .333 (6-for-18) with two RBIs and four runs scored. Castellani pitched 15.1 innings with 15 strikeouts, posting a complete game shut out in the series-clinching win over top-seeded Navy in the semifinals.
Bucknell's seven seniors – Mike Castellani, Sam Clark, Tommy Gambon, Danny Rafferty, Alex Salem, Jack Schoenberger and Brett Smith – concluded their careers with 94 victories and three Patriot League Tournament appearances, winning the league title in 2014.
THE CAPTAIN. pic.twitter.com/I6LsmRwdg9— Bucknell Baseball (@Bucknell_BB) May 20, 2017